We all know that the regular consumption of fruit and vegetables is the cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle (along with exercise). However, experts are at odds about whether or not the benefits that come from eating fruits and vegetables sufficiently outweigh the negatives from the levels of pesticides and toxins that are found in them. Certainly, studies have shown that consuming pesticides can be detrimental to a child’s growth and development.
Since 2004, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has been releasing an annual “Dirty Dozen” list to rank fruits and vegetables based on their levels of pesticide contamination. (In 2018 strawberries notoriously topped the list for the third year running.) So if you are considering buying the fruit and vegetables on the list, it might be a good idea to go organic, particularly if you have young ones in the household. But if organic is simply priced out of reach, note that EWG also releases another list called the “Clean Fifteen”, along with the dirty dozen, which consists of the 15 fruit and vegetables that were tested and found to have the lowest amounts of pesticides. Let’s take a closer look at the health benefits of the top 8 that made it on the list.
The avocado is rich and creamy and high in fat, but the good kind. It contains very little saturated fat and is cholesterol- and sodium-free, making it a very heart-healthy food. And while they do contain carbs, most of that is in the form of fibre, and that actually classifies avocados as a low-carb food. Avocados are also high in vitamin K (for bone health) and certain B vitamins such as folate (good for pregnant mums). It also contains Vitamin E and potassium, which promotes healthy, hydrated skin.
Sweet, Sweet Corn
This deliciously crunchy and sweet fruit is a guilt-free indulgence. It supports the growth of healthy flora in your gut and helps keep your digestive tract in good shape. It contains a lot of fibre and is a slow-burning carbohydrate, which means it will keep you feeling full longer — and is a wonderful vegetable to add to your diet if you are watching your figure. And that’s not all: it also contains lutein and zeaxanthin to support eye health. Sweet news indeed.
This beautiful fruit is certainly a welcome addition to the clean list. Replete with vitamin C, it is high in antioxidants and a protector of cells and defender against cardiovascular diseases and macular degeneration; not to mention the common cold and flu. It’s manganese-rich, an essential nutrient for healthy bones, joints and connective tissue, making it an excellent addition to your diet should you suffer from osteoporosis and other joint pains.
The humble cabbage is another good source of vitamin C and all its accompanying benefits. Just like pineapple, this vegetable is high in fibre and also helps the good bacteria in the gut to flourish, keeping your belly healthy and comfortable. This crunchy cruciferous also has significant anti-inflammatory properties and may be beneficial to those suffering from chronic inflammatory diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease and rheumatoid arthritis.
Onions contain the antioxidant quercetin, which is understood to have antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties. While current research does not allow for anything conclusive, initial studies bode well for allergy and asthma sufferers. In addition, onions may also help to lower glucose levels — good news for diabetics — and stave off heart disease by reducing high blood pressure and keeping your arteries loose and pliable. Those are plenty of reasons not to cry over onions.
Sweet Frozen Peas
Green peas are a much-maligned vegetable. These little pearls of goodness are so easy and convenient to add to your meals. And when you do toss them in your chicken pie or beef stew, or steam them with sweet corn and carrots as a side dish to your main protein, know that you are adding much-needed fibre to your diet along with other essential vitamins and nutrients such as vitamin A, C, K, folate and iron. Not only are these babies good for your digestion, but they also help to regulate blood sugar levels and blood pressure.
Why not just call this a miracle fruit? This tropical marvel is an infection-fighting, immune-boosting powerhouse. It also has anti-ageing benefits, thanks to vitamins C and E, and beta-carotene. Papaya also contains a proteolytic enzyme — aptly named papain — that can help with the discomforts of menstrual pain (and also aids digestion). And papayas may taste sweet but they are actually pretty low in sugar content, making them an excellent source of nutrients for diabetics. Oh, and never mind that it just so happens to be absolutely delicious!
Packed with antioxidants, asparagus is known for its cancer-fighting properties because of its ability to neutralise the harmful effects of free radicals. Load up on some asparagus to enjoy its anti-inflammatory and anti-ageing properties. Feeling bloated? You may want to add asparagus to your vegetable intake for the day; the amino acid asparagine is a diuretic that not only helps to relieve your body of fluid, it also helps to remove excess salt from the body.